Described by The Guardian as the new Tuscany or, even better, the more affordable Tuscany, Alentejo is one of the destinations you can’t afford to miss ou when you visit Portugal. The wine is amazing, it’s where half of the Portuguese wine production is done. The food is very rich, sometimes rustic but always really tasty with black pork, sheep’s cheese, wild mushrooms as some of the typical dishes you should definitely try. Culturally there’s an abundance of history to discover while visiting roman ruins, castles, museums, wineries or churches from many centuries ago.Alter do Chão Castle – Built In The 13th Century
Since returning to Portugal, Alentejo has become one of the regions I’ve visited the most whenever I have the chance. It’s relatively close to Lisbon and it’s usually warmer and drier plus hotels tend to be cheaper there. This Easter I had some holidays to take so with temperatures around 26° c, that’s 79 F, I decided to go to Alter do Chão. The idea was to find a nice hotel with a swimming pool inside a small village so I wouldn’t have to go far looking for restaurants. After doing some research, I discovered the Hotel Convento d’Alter, a XVII Franciscan convent that was converted into a beautiful hotel. I’ve added some pictures of the swimming pool although it looks even better once you’re there, sitting on a lounge chair with this incredible view around you. It helped that we were one of the only guests staying at the hotel so the whole space was basically only for my partner and me.
Now as for the service, irreprehensible, they were really nice to us, very helpful giving suggestions on what to do and see and they even gave us an upgrade giving us a bedroom on the bottom floor, next to the swimming (if you decide to visit, tell them you’d prefer to stay on the ground floor). It was great to just go in for a nap or to get some drinks and be by the pool so instantly. All this for just 117 euros, quite a great price for two nights.
What to do in Alter do Chão
1. Visit A Medieval Castle – Apart from lounging by the pool, we went around the village and climbed the many stairs of the medieval castle that is right in the centre of the city. It costs 2 euros to go in. There’s an elevator for those with low mobility but if you can, use the stairs, its not only a great workout but you get to feel what it must have been like to live in those days, moving in big armours around the small passways and narrow stairs. Parts of the castle were built during the Muslim occupation but the castle as it is today was rebuilt in 1359.
2. Ride a horse in the Coudelaria de Alter do Chão – Founded in 1748, the goal was to “breed horses for the royal horsemanship“. This stud farm is where Alter Real studs are bred and there’s even an annual auction where breeders or farmers can buy these or other Portuguese horses. There are tours taking place every day in Coudelaria, you can visit the stables and the museum, you can book horse-riding lessons or even practice falconry with experts. Tours take place twice a day, at 11 am and 3 pm but I would advise you to call and confirm the dates they’re open to the public.
Booking Telephone: 961733371 / 245610064 | Email: email@example.com.
3. Walk in a Roman Bridge – Although not in Alter do Chão, you can’t miss out this piece of history. This roman bridge in Vila Formosa was built in the 1st or 2nd century and it was part of the roman empire road system that connected Lisbon to Mérida in Spain, at the time the capital of Lusitania. It was so well built, that nowadays, 21 centuries after, cars can still circulate on it.
4. Enjoy the Alentejo Cuisine at the Restaurante Páteo Real – Try some of the marvelous Alentejo cuisine in this restaurant right next to the Convento D’Alter Hotel. A roasted leg of lamb or a lamb stew, grilled black pork, together with some good Alentejo wine and bread to dip into the sauce. Unpretentious and delicious.
If you’re planning to take some days off, just to catch up on some reading and sleeping like I did, or if you want to visit high Alentejo, its vineyards and its rich history, Alter do Chão is a great option.